For 112 years, one of the pillars of the Italian American community has been the Order Sons of Italy. Times change and after more than a century of serving the communities in which the chapters operate, the organization is now the Order of the Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA).
Honoring tradition while staying open to unprecedented challenges is a difficult balancing act for anyone. It takes a strong, sure-handed leader to do so. When the organization’s leaders in Sarasota, Florida, met to elect its new leader, they selected Vera Girolami from San Jose, California, to forge the future of this oldest and largest national organization of Italian heritage. She rose to the office after serving for more than a decade in other executive roles to be elected as OSDIA’s 36th National President. She is only the second woman president in the 112 year history of the organization. There to install her as President on the momentous occasion was OSDIA’s first woman National President, Joanne L. Strollo, who served in that capacity from 1993 to 1995. “It is with great happiness that I relinquish the word ‘only’ to my sister Vera,” Joanne said. “She has the attributes to be President and she just happened to be a woman.”
This also marked the first time in OSDIA history that women held the two top positions in the organization, which fittingly coincided with the decision to officially change the Order Sons of Italy in America (OSIA) name to Order Sons and Daughters of Italy in America (OSDIA). Six of eleven OSIA national trustees are women. Two of its five national vice presidents are women. Women even comprise six of the seven staff members at the OSDIA National Office in Washington, D.C., working behind the scenes to help officers and members.
For Mrs. Girolami, breaking gender barriers represents a way of life that goes back to her teenage years. Within OSIA, she has taken a patient path, leading local and state lodges and holding several vice president positions along the way. If Mrs. Girolami seeks an opportunity, it is an opportunity to serve. This dates back to her childhood as a shoemaker’s daughter, by watching her two Sicilian immigrant parents diligently work. The family moved to California when she was a young girl and opened up their shoe repair business.
Vera is up for the challenge of acting as president for the 40,000 member-strong organization. Her objective is to expand the methods of communication among members to increase the online presence and add a new generation to the OSIA family. The Italian Tribune wishes her the best during her tenure.